THIS IS BE-BOP PIANO 101…Benny Green: Live In Santa Cruz!

This disc is like a tropical storm that clears out all of the rubbish in the streets. Unlike almost all pianists under 60, Benny Green has avoided the pitfalls of modal, electronic and atonal free and has stayed loyal to the fervent and febrile joy of bebop, which is the foundation for all of modern jazz. Where other  pianists give hint of the likes of Bud Powell or Hampton Hawes, Benny Green plunges into the pool doing a cannonball and doesn’t come up for air in this concert in Santa Cruz with David Wong/b and Kenny Washington/dr.

There’s a snap and sizzle to pieces such as “Certainly” and “Sonny Clarke” that captures the manic joy of bebop. Torrential rhythms, fiendishly tricky runs and ricocheting beats in hands less committed would come off as trite, but here the enthusiasm and celebration is palpable. A pair of latin gems, “Phoebe’s Samba” and “Cactus Flower” add a touch of exoticism, and as all jazz is supposed to do, liven up the traditional. And don’t forget that boppers also play ballads con alma, as “Forgiveness” is a tender delight, just before all of the stops are pulled for the torrential “Bish Bash” that is a white heat of a four point five minutes. The bone marrow of modern jazz is exposed here, and is as nourishing and life affirming as hoped. Let’s pray Green isn’t the last of a breed.

Sunnyside Records

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